This entry was intended as a private note. However, I have thought it can be of some interest to readers of this blog. Please bear in mind it is a work in progress, you may find my reviews of the books I’ve read so far clicking on the books’ titles. Your comments are welcome and I would appreciate if you let me know of any error and/or omission you may find on this page, thank you beforehand.
Andrea Camilleri was born in Porto Empedocle in 1925. He made his debut as a theatre director, in Rome, in 1953. He subsequently worked as a producer and scriptwriter and as a director for RAI radio and television. He also taught Actor Directing at the Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, and theatre directing at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica Silvio d’Amico for fifteen years. He published his first novel in 1978 and has never stopped writing since. He has published more than a hundred volumes: historical novels, political essays, and crime novels, including the celebrated Commissario Montalbano series. His books have sold almost 25 million copies in Italy and 15 million copies abroad, and have been translated into 37 languages. The Commissario Montalbano tv series has been broadcasted in more than 60 countries. He writes for many Italian and foreign newspapers and has won numerous literary awards in Italy and elsewhere in Europe. (Source: Alferj e Prestia agenzia letteraria). On 17 June 2019, Camilleri suffered a heart attack. He was admitted to hospital in critical condition, and died on 17 July 2019. He’ll be sorely missed.
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Inspector (Commissario) Salvo Montalbano is a Sicilian fictional character that was created by Italian writer Andrea Camilleri. The novels are written in a mixture of Italian and Sicilian dialects. As you would expect much of the action takes place on the island of Sicily. They are detective novels intertwined with humour, and social comment.
Salvo Montalbano is a typical Sicilian chalk full of all of the idiosyncrasies and above all else good detective work. He has his own ways of doing things and is seen be his superiors as a loose cannon. He is constantly dealing in a world of shady characters, with different connections, who operate in a your scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours sort of dynamic. Yet through it all the Inspector manages to remain true and uncompromising at least to a point where he can still live with himself. The character involves a great deal of humour but the author also adds hard criticism of both Italian and Sicilian political and social situation. Unlike most detective novels where these contexts are simply skimmed over or ignored altogether, these elements form a backbone to the tales of the inspector.
Montalbano is the head of the Vigata police precinct. As such he must balance the desires of his superiors, the reality of the crime rate in the area and, of course his personal life. To make matters even murkier there are two factions within the force that are trying to control the way things are done. The ideology coming from Milan is a standardized regulated way of doing police work. This northern view demands and increase in transparency and a desire to do things by the book. On the opposite side of the spectrum in the southern outlook to law enforcement that involves intricate interpersonal connections that effect how justice is carried out. What makes Inspector Montalbano so effective is his ability to balance between these two opposite factions; it is not always an easy task but he has a knack of keeping everyone happy. Any mention of Italy is usually followed by an image of great food. Inspector Montalbano often eats well-described meals during his adventures, bringing a delightful gastronomic aspect to the series as a whole.
The original Italian series of novels began in 1994. The novels were not translated into English until 2002, after 6 novels had already been complete. Stephen Santarelli, whom critics say managed to maintain a distinct Italian feel despite the fact that the stories were being told in English, does the translation.
Since 1999 there has been television movies of the Inspector Montalbano adventures being produced in Italy. To date there are 26 separate titles. There were two episodes produced annually for the first 6 years of the run, this number has been increased for the last three seasons to 4. Usually produced at a rate of two annually. The series is very popular and shows no signs of ending any time soon.
Inspector Montalbano is an intelligent competent detective. He manages to wade through the reality of Sicilian life while maintaining his honesty and his integrity. The novels are filled with wonderful character and enough comedic episodes to entertain even the most discerning reader. This is not gratuitous comedy, but rather real, tangible events that are believable and would be comical if witnessed first hand. Beside the characters, the comedic elements and even the fabulous backdrop that makes up the novels, the often referred to gastronomic reality of the Italian island is present as well. We can almost smell the wonderful dishes that are being prepared and consumed, all whilst immersed into thought provoking mysteries that are intriguing up to the very end. (Source: Book series in order)
To the best of my knowledge, the complete book series comprises so far the following titles in publication order:
- The Shape of Water, 2002 [La forma dell’acqua, Palermo, Sellerio, 1994];
- The Terra-Cotta Dog, 2002 [Il cane di terracotta, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996];
- The Snack Thief, 2003 [Il ladro di merendine, Palermo, Sellerio, 1996];
- The Voice of the Violin, 2003 [La voce del violino, Palermo, Sellerio, 1997];
- The Excursion To Tindari, 2005 [La gita a Tindari, Palermo, Sellerio, 2000];
- The Smell of the Night aka The Scent of the Night, 2005 [L’odore della notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2001];
- Rounding the Mark, 2006 [Il giro di boa, Palermo, Sellerio, 2003];
- The Patience of the Spider, 2007 [La pazienza del ragno, Palermo, Sellerio, 2004];
- The Paper Moon, 2008 [La luna di carta, Palermo, Sellerio, 2005];
- August Heat, 2009 [La vampa d’agosto, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006];
- The Wings of the Sphinx, 2009 [Le ali della sfinge, Palermo, Sellerio, 2006];
- The Track of Sand, 2010 [La pista di sabbia, Palermo, Sellerio, 2007];
- The Potter’s Field, 2011 [Il campo del vasaio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];
- The Age of Doubt, 2012 [L’età del dubbio, Palermo, Sellerio, 2008];
- The Dance of the Seagull, 2013 [La danza del gabbiano, Palermo, Sellerio, 2009];
- The Treasure Hunt, 2013 [La caccia al tesoro, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
- Angelica’s Smile, 2014 [Il sorriso di Angelica, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
- Game of Mirrors, 2015 [Il gioco degli specchi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2010];
- A Beam of Light aka Blade of Light, 2015 [Una lama di luce, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012];
- A Voice in the Night, 2016 [Una voce di notte, Palermo, Sellerio, 2012];
- A Nest of Vipers, 2017 [Un covo di vipere, Palermo, Sellerio, 2013];
- The Pyramid of Mud, 2018 [La piramide di fango, Palermo, Sellerio, 2014];
- The Overnight Kidnapper, 2019 [La giostra degli scambi, Palermo, Sellerio, 2015];
- The Other End of the Line,2019 [L’altro capo del filo, Palermo, Sellerio, 2016];
- La rete di protezione, Palermo, Sellerio, 2017;
- Il metodo Catalanotti, Palermo, Sellerio, 2018;
- Il cuoco dell’Alcyon, Palermo, Sellerio, 2019; and
- Riccardino (inedito).
In bold some of my favourite titles, but need to re-think some titles I read some time ago, like August Heat for instance.
Besides Inspector Montalbano also appears in the following collections of short stories and novellas: Montalbano’s First Case and Other Stories, 2016 [A selection of 21 short stories, of his 59 published stories featuring Chief Insp. Salvo Montalbano. This selection includes the following titles: ‘Montalbano’s first case’, ‘Fifty pairs of hobnailed boots’, ‘Neck and neck’; ‘Fellow traveler’; ‘Dress rehearsal’; ‘Amore’; ‘The artist’s touch’; ‘Montalbano’s rice fritters’; ‘As Alice did’; ‘The pact’; ‘Mortally wounded’; ‘Catarella solves a case’; ‘Being here’; ‘Seven Mondays’; ‘Judicial review’; ‘Pessoa maintains’; ‘The cat and the goldfinch’; ‘Montalbano says no’; ‘A kidnapping’; ‘Montalbano afraid’ and ‘Better than darkness’], and Death at Sea, Mantle , September 2018 [a collection of eight short stories featuring the young Inspector Montalbano]
In Italian the following collections are available in book form: Un mese con Montalbano, 1998 ; Gli arancini di Montalbano 1999 ; La paura di Montalbano, 2002; La prima indagine di Montalbano, 2004; Morte in mare aperto e altre indagini del giovane Montalbano, 2014.